This is a further reduction in the rights of the Americans. On face value, this may appear to be protecting Americans, but when you look at it more deeply, can anyone define terrorism? Or does terrorism have a fluid definition that those who write the definition – i.e. the Government – can change at a moments notice? If this is the case, then what happens when the US Government decides to declare a lawful domestic group which is opposes the governments policies as a terrorist group? That would mean that anyone, including family members of those who are now labeled as terrorists could be prosecuted as giving aid to terrorists. And would anyone really want to wait for another 12 years in a Federal Detention facility being treated as a terrorist while your case meanders through the Federal Court System? This is just another attempt by those in the Government to silence any and all who oppose it, disregarding the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and cloak it under National Security. It is a theme they shall repeatedly return to time and time again.
Over the objections of three justices, the Supreme Court has upheld a federal law prohibiting American citizens from providing “material support or resources” to foreign terror groups. The 6-3 majority opinion from Chief Justice John Roberts is a victory for the government’s efforts to fight terrorist organizations.
“It is not difficult to conclude, as Congress did, that the taint of [terrorist’s] violent activities is so great that working in coordination with them or at their command legitimizes and furthers their terrorist means,” Roberts wrote. “Moreover, material support meant to promote peaceable, lawful conduct can be diverted to advance terrorism in multiple ways.”
A group called the Humanitarian Law Project sought to provide legal training and political advocacy for a pair of groups designated by the State Department as foreign terrorist organizations. Monday’s ruling says that support is illegal because “…all contributions to foreign terrorist organizations–even those for seemingly benign purposes–further those groups’ terrorist activities.”
The Humanitarian Law Project claimed the law violated its First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. The Court’s ruling said that was not the case.
Justice Stephen Breyer took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench, something that is rarely done and often only when a justice feels particularly strong about the outcome of the decision. Breyer said he could not agree with the Court’s conclusion that “the Constitution permits the Government to prosecute the plaintiffs criminally for engaging in coordinated teaching and advocacy furthering the designated organizations’ lawful political objectives.” Breyer was joined in dissent by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
The case ends 12 years of litigation in which the Humanitarian Law Project had sought to assist the lawful and nonviolent activities of two separatist groups in Turkey and Sri Lanka. Notwithstanding any benevolent activities, the United States government says the groups PKK and LTTE are terrorists groups. The Project claimed the “material support” law infringed on their First Amendment rights to advocate and speak on behalf of the separatist groups. But the Court concluded that it is “wholly foreseeable” any support for these groups would provide them with “information and techniques that it could use as part of a broader strategy to promote terrorism, and to threaten, manipulate, and disrupt.” It set aside the Project’s claims saying its proposals of political advocacy were so broad in scope that they could not prevail on their constitutional claims.
Breyer said he does not dispute the Court’s concerns about protecting the country from the threat of foreign terrorist groups. But he said he was unable to determine how applying the law actually achieves that purpose. “I believe the Court has failed to examine the Government’s justifications with sufficient care. It has failed to insist upon specific evidence, rather than general assertion. It has failed to require tailoring of means to fit compelling ends. And ultimately it deprives the individuals before us of the protection that the First Amendment demands.”
Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan argued and won the case for the government.